Describing Document Text For Accessibility
Posted on 18 Aug 2002
by Tim Roberts (wiseguysonly)
Rated 3.97 (Ratings: 14)
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The Document TitleThe title tag in HTML, is often not used to its full capability. A well implemented document title not only adds to its accessibility, but also the usability and promotion of the site. A good format for a document title is:
Site Name: A tag line about your site.The first thing a screen-reader often does is read aloud the document title. Using special symbols, a meaningless combination of characters to create a pretty title bar or writing something abstract can only serve to confuse the user. A good yet simple tag line also helps the user identify your document purpose. Tell people what your document (or site) is about clearly and concisely. A site title should also begin with the name of your site. When your site is book marked it is added to the users list alphabetically. If your title begins with the actual name of your site, a user will be able to locate by scanning a list of bookmarks much quicker. It also helps to instill your identity. Avoid using words such as "Welcome to" or "The". Look at The MSN site for an example of a bad title (MSN filed under "W").
Defining the natural language of a document is a requirement of WAIAAA compliance. The html tag can take a
langattribute which defines the main language of the document. The attribute value takes the value of a two letter language code. Here is an example of a document declared as English language:
<html lang="EN">There are several reasons for specifying the language of a document, but from an accessibility view it assists speech software in accent and pronunciation of the document. A document's natural language may also change momentarily, and because of this the
langattribute is also available for just about all elements in HTML4.0 / XHTML1.0 tags. An example of a change in a document's language could be a quote (use the
langattribute in the
blockquote) or a more common incidence would be the use of a foreign phrase that has crept into the english language like so:
So I said to her, "<span lang="FR">C'est la vie<span>". Comprehensive list of ISO 639 language codes.
Dealing with Acronyms and Abbreviations.Acronyms and abbreviations can create problems for a screen reader's pronunciation, dyslexics and anybody who hasn't got clue what they stand for. When they released HTML4.0, the W3 Consortium sought to remedy this with the introduction of special and ingeniously named
abbrtags. These tags are used along with the
<acronym title="Automobile Association">AA<acronym>
If you are using Internet Explorer, hold your mouse cursor over the following acronym to see the meaning manifested: WAI. You can also try it on other acronyms that appear throughout this page. To a screen reader, the letters would be ignored and the whole meaning would be read out.
A Final Word: On Words.As with most of the things you need to describe in your web documents, try to keep your writing as crisp and concise as possible. Read your document out aloud and note how it flows, or even better test it with a screen-reader browser such as pwWebSpeak, or IBM's Home Page Reader.However, don't stifle your style. If your document is meant to be creatively verbose, then so be it. Take notice of other styles on the web. Note the differences between news sites, web-logs, technical articles or whatever you read. Note what makes them difficult to understand and what makes them better. To a disabled person, little details like these can make all the difference.
Writing is a very personal thing and can only be cultivated with practice,but most of the things I have written about in this article can enhance the accessibility of any type of textual content.